SEOUL -- North Korea said yesterday it plans to boost its nuclear weapons program because of hostile US policies toward the regime, and it called Washington's criticism of its human rights record hypocritical.
The statements cast new doubt on efforts to resume six-nation talks to resolve an international dispute over Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.
The North ''will increase [its] self-reliant national defense capacity, including nuclear deterrent, pursuant to the Songun [military-first] policy, to cope with the US escalated policy to isolate and stifle it with the nuclear issue and the 'human rights issue' as pretexts," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.
Since the crisis began in late 2002, the United States, South Korea, Russia, Japan, and China have sought to persuade Pyongyang to disarm in exchange for diplomatic recognition and aid.
In September, the North agreed in principle to do so, but implementation of the accord has stalled over new financial sanctions imposed by the United States to stem alleged illegal activities in North Korea, including counterfeiting and money laundering.
The two Koreas agreed in high-level talks last week to work to implement the September agreement. South Korean Unification Minister Chung Dong-young traveled to Washington on Sunday seeking to restart negotiations.
The North said in February that it had nuclear weapons, and experts believe it has enough radioactive material for at least a half-dozen bombs. Pyongyang's claim has not been verified independently.
The North's latest statement came in response to a UN resolution adopted Friday expressing serious concerns about reports of human rights abuses in North Korea. The US envoy for human rights in North Korea visited the South this month for a US-supported conference on the issue, where he called on Seoul to take a stand on the issue.
''The US is a typical criminal state which politicizes the human rights issue and applies selectivity and double standards concerning the issue," the North said yesterday.
North Korea has been accused of abuses ranging from an absence of basic civil liberties to public executions and life-threatening conditions in confinement. The US State Department believes that the isolated communist nation holds 150,000-200,000 political prisoners in camps.
The North denies the accusations.